Sunday, April 11, 2010

First the moral of the story. Moving is hard no matter what. Faced with this difficult task we chose to see moving as an opportunity. An opportunity to organize and shed skin and plan ahead. And also to rip up carpet, finish wood floors, tear out and rebuild a bathroom and freshly paint every room in the house. But seriously, the logic is clear that all these improvements will be much easier now before we have all our possessions here. But we may have confused the notion of easier with plain easy, which it was not. A recount of our most momentous transformation since Solly was born:

On March 22nd Rachel began her new job as a Nurse Practitioner; more days, more hours, more responsibility.

On March 23rd we took possession of our new home after an amazing roller-coaster ride of events. I have recorded these events in my journal for posterity, but would rather not re-live the stress through telling it here if possible because what is important is that we are in our house and we love it.

On March 29th I began my two-week leave from work. This time was set aside to take on the many improvement projects in our new home and pack and clean out the old apartment. Walking into the empty, unheated house that Monday morning I saw my challenges anew: a living room painted blue like superman’s tights; a lavender office; a bathroom with pepto-bismal tile, original linoleum, and a custom plywood vanity; a yellow bedroom with grey carpet. The goal was to complete the transformation before the big move on Saturday.

I called in as many favors as I could from family and friends during this week to help. Rachel’s mom Deborah joined us the whole first week to act as the nanny for Solly so we could both be productive. Her dad Greg arrived on the 31st and quickly painted 3 rooms. Good friend Bryan helped demolish the bathroom. Brother’s Paul and Gabe gave their time to multiple jobs on multiple days. My parents brought dinners…my dad installed new baseboards…my brother John set up the wireless network. The results are fantastic! See if you can tell the before and after:

....And then we asked them to help move the furniture!

On Saturday April 3 our cute little house was waiting for us to move in and we had a firm deadline of 11AM to move all our stuff out – the new tenant at our apartment was planning to move in on Sunday and the carpet cleaners needed the majority of Saturday to clean away the stains we left after 3 years there. A fantastic crew of supportive friends made quick work of our things and we were physically moved to our new home before noon. But that is of course only half of a move - the other half is arranging the furniture and unpacking boxes. We convinced everyone to move the furniture into the right rooms and even put the boxes correct closets - then the celebration began!

It may have been foolish of me to think that we were near finished with the big move after everyone left. A whole week left on my break and all I had to do was unpack! Man was I wrong. The best metaphor of the week following the move is of a rubick's cube; in order to move the clothes into the closets - the boxes of books need to be moved out - and they should move onto the bookshelf which is covered with tools - which need to be put back into the garage - which is full of boxes! It was during all this that my body began to tell me that it was not interested in a career in moving. Aching shoulders, tendonitis in my wrist, even lower back pain. Every night after the box/furniture shuffle I would allow myself to eat and drink well to guarantee the good sleep I would need to do it all over again.

And each morning I would also rev myself up for the day with the new luxury of fresh orange juice from our big tree. Thats living!

We love our new digs. We now have our space capsule for our life ahead and our trajectory in life is good. There will be so many memories here....I can't wait to live them.

We owe so much thanks to all the assistance we received from our circle. Without all of you, financially, physically, and emotionally, we would not be here in our own home. Thank you
Deborah, Greg, Tona, Dave, Frank, Gabe, John, Paul, Bryan, Willow, Robert, Tamara, Jed, and everyone else who contributed to this major event.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Big changes - just about

Solly has definitely been the most powerful force of change in our family so far. All of our routines and many of our past times are greatly impacted by his needs and preferences. Parents must be great at adaptation otherwise you'd go crazy! But Solly has been living within the world that we prepared for him - and on the horizon are two big changes to that world that now he will have to adapt to.

The first big change is that at long last it looks like we will be buying a house to raise our family in. We are so relieved to be nearly done with this very long process - if you know the saga you know that we've been at it for over 12 months. We are also so very thankful to our families for the creative financial assistance they have given us. We also give thanks in advance to everyone for the help in the preparation for the move and the move itself. As it stands, on April 3 we are scheduled to move ourselves into a cute little 1943 bungalow in the Bret Harte neighborhood of San Rafael. It has what we need; 2 bedrooms, a guest room/office, a kitchen with potential, and a garage. Plus it has what we want; a friendly neighborhood full of families with children and a big flat backyard ready to accommodate both a play structure, a vegetable garden plus with plenty of room to spare for outdoor entertaining. We even have a fully mature orange tree in front - that spells fresh squeezed orange juice! Needless to say we are super excited for this change- stay tuned for the housewarming date!

The second big change is that Rachel is taking a new job as a Nurse Practitioner at the U. of California hospital in San Francisco. This is different from her current job as a Registered Nurse in a few ways. First, it puts to use the degree she received last June before Solly was born. Also, it gives her a new level of responsibility of care as NPs often do much of the same work Doctors do including diagnosis and prescribing medicine. Most of all, it requires her to work three days a week, up from two days currently. Again we are blessed with the support of family to help with this change - Aunt Diane stepping up to take care of Solly 3 times a month and Ya-Ya (Grandma Tona) able to expand her care to take Solly on the Fridays that Rachel will now work. Less time at home is not preferred for Rach, but working 3 days with 4 days off still gives the family the majority of her time.

So, I guess what is interesting to me is that Solly will, for the first time, have to adapt to changing conditions around him. Adaptability is a virtue that I think has a great deal of value and I know my job as a dad will expand during this process to support Solly's adaptation. Those of you parents who have done this before and have suggestions on how to build a bridge that keeps him comfortable - I welcome the advice. But even if all this change is hard, I feel that we are moving into a schedule and a surroundings that will be more lasting - the vessel of many of our memories-to-be. Come and visit us there. Now we will have a spare room for you to stay in and fresh squeezed OJ for you to drink!

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Six Months OMG! Where did the time go!

I am in disbelief that the last post describes Solly turning 3 months old - he will be 7 months old on the 24th of February! There have been so many great as well as challenging moments in the past few months that its hard to decide which to share. I've felt this feeling before when trying to summarize the events of some long period of time during a phone call with an old friend. So I'm going to skip over months 4 and 5 and tell you about month six.

Solly is no longer a helpless little newborn. He is a very verbal little boy who when well rested, likes to sit on the floor and play with his toys including his favorite toy, a red and yellow dump truck. He coos and calls and chirps and laughs to himself. If you play with him, he'll laugh even more.

He is also moving beyond his breast milk only diet. We have started him on some of the early solids like banana, sweet potato, spinach, and rice cereal. I was given a great old high chair from a friend of mine which Solly can grow into - he can't even reach the far edge of the tray it is so big! Rachel is enjoying the process of baking up a sweet potato or steaming spinach and pureeing into a little bowl of Solly gruel. She freezes the rest in ice cube trays and saves it for the next time. He is a real good eater too. He opens up and slurps in the gruel and raises his voice if you don't feed him fast enough. Very different from the struggle I imagined it would be to get a baby to open up for green or orange gruel. Unfortunately for Solly, his mouth is a little ahead of his digestive system. We need to get more fluids in him to counteract the fiber rich gruel - which ends up as little-man turds that are apparently a little too grown up for him. That's all I will say there.

We've also discovered that he, like other babies, is a fan of classical music. This has been a learning process for us as we observed him go from fussy baby in the car to a dozing angel after a few minutes of classical music was on the radio. We hoped that this may be a cure-all for any rough moment and filled up our iPhones with the ability to spout classical music whenever we needed - not just in the car. Over time however, we've discovered that to him, it is a relaxation agent not a tranquilizer. We often play it at bedtime now to calm him down, but playing it all night does not keep him in a state of suspended animation - darn.

One of the most special things over the past three months is the visits that we have had with his great grandparents.
Great Grandma Muriel on Rachel's mother's side and Great Grandpa Larry on my father's side.
There is something about watching our wise elders who are the wellsprings of our family hold a child 3 generations removed from them. I try to imagine being in their shoes holding Solly's children's children. It blows my mind away and I can only imagine it is as special for them as it is for me. Both great grandparents live far away and so again a visit with them is extra special.
I am pleased to say that both are also in great health and we look forward to many more visits.

Rachel and I are still holding up well too. Very used to the spotty sleep schedule, but always wishing for more. Rach is now able to get out and hike at nearly 100% ability again and we are looking forward to the early light of summer for weekend walks in the hills around us. We are also focusing all of our available energy on finding a house to move into before this magic opportunity to get into the market disappears. Our one bedroom apartment is beginning to feel very small as Solly and his toys, voice, and clothes takes up more and more space. I hope to have good news for you all on this front in the next entry - which I promise will be much sooner than this one.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Solly turned three months old this past weekend! We were both tired because sleep has not been very frequent lately, so we just had a family night to ourselves and turned in pretty early. Unfortunately Solly didn't rest well all weekend leaving us frazzled come monday morning. We're starting to think that he is hitting a growth spurt; - growing cuter and cuter! Mother's milk seems to be the magic - he eats as often as he can! A few weeks ago while staying at Ya-ya's (Grandma Wheeler's) all day he consumed 24oz of milk! 24 oz is just short of 750 mL - a wine bottle full of milk!

That brings up our recent big lifestyle change. We have made the shift to a 1.5 wage-earner household - Rachel now works every Monday and Tuesday at the UCSF cancer center in San Francisco. I haven't seen it yet but she describes a very small office with no windows and three women all working hard to support the clinic. Its a challenge to pump enough during the day to make up for what Sol is eating that day by bottle.

She is sharing this job with another woman - together they fill a week as if they were one person, but both are able to enjoy a part time schedule. This is nice for me too, I like being able to have 30 minutes in the morning and evening of each Monday and Tuesday to have eachother's attention during our commute.

Its working pretty good that Solly gets his mom 3 days a week, both mom and dad two days a week, and his Ya-Ya two other days. Rachel's aunt Diane is now getting in on the weekly schedule taking every other Monday. And we've broken the friends-as-babysitters barrier now too. Our friend Tamara will be taking care of Sol at her house in San Francisco on Thursday this week for a half day. And so far Sol is in love with every caretaker he has - if you play with him, sing songs with him, feed him and respond to his smiles you are his buddy. I hope that attitude stays with him-it suits him to be socially capabal in any surrounding.

The only thing that is out of balance these days is my work schedule. If you didn't know I took a new job as an advisor to one of the Commissioners at the CPUC and it feels as though I've been thrown in the deep end! I have been on business trips overnight each week for the past 2 weeks and will be doing so for two more - some out of state! Rachel has been such a trooper supporting this transition to a position with more responsibility, but I still miss out on the Solly-wog time. I am finding the videos we are taking to be hugely valuable to watch while I am away. The two below are some recent favorites.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

It seems simple enough that a mother and father are supposed to bond with their baby. But this bonding experience is a pretty powerful event! I've felt it plenty, but its fascinating to watch too.

Solly is a little over 2 months old now and is really starting to develop. He looks at you, he looks at the cats, and he loves to look at the trees when we are outside. I think he even is starting to understand the camera too. Look at these poses!

I think that this growing ability to interact really facilitates the bonding process. Of course both Rach and I loved him the minute we saw him - but to others I think he may have just been a cute baby. Now, when others get to spend some time with him and he interacts with them, the interaction is different - it has become a two way street - like a conversation. And when you have a good conversation with someone they become more like a friend than just a warm body - (even a cute warm baby's body!) Can you be friends with a baby?

Here is another example in this video we took. After he talks to Rach you can almost feel the excitement from the dynamic interaction with him. You get hooked on that and you keep going back for more. With this increased interactivity I've watched some of my friends "get bonded" during one visit. I can't wait to see him on the dating scene!

I'm serious when I say that for both of us the depth of our love grows everyday. He gives us more personality and we love every new detail.
How long will this last? Parents, tell us, does this awesome feeling ever stop?

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Babymoon Over (in a good way)

Baby Solly is no longer new. His novelty is sustained in Rachel and my life, but is different somehow. He has slipped in to being a constant. This happened partly when paternity leave ended for me. It also happened when we began to have to take care of business like getting me to work in the morning and simple errands during the day. Instead of hanging out with baby all day, I now look forward to coming home and stripping off my work clothes so that I can snuggle with his little wiggly body.

I guess the transformation is that we are incorporating him into the things we have to do - the art of being a parent I guess. I certainly have watched my friends address household chores as they hold their children who wouldn't stand for being set down and knew I 'd be one of them, but some things surprise me.

I am surprised how gingerly I used to hold the little guy - carefully supporting every part of his little body - compared to the way I now balance him over my shoulder and hold him with my jawbone as if he is some telephone receiver (on rare occasions). I am surprised that he is with me as I write this posting. He is actually quite comfortable contrary to what you might think regarding the angle of his head.

The change was bound to happen, but he brings just as many smiles to us now if not more. I think he is getting cuter compared to the rag-doll that he once was, now personality is forming and he is showing us the first glimpses of who us behind those fabulous eyes and glowing smile.

Or are we just reading into everything too much? Who knows, we'll see.

Monday, August 31, 2009

First Post from our Trip to Oregon

The State of CA gives me 6 weeks of paternity leave. I of course would like to use as many of those weeks as possible so as to get the benefits I deserve. I took 3 weeks after Solly was born, then I returned to work for two weeks and am now back on leave for 17 days until September 13.

We planned to take this time to bring Solly up to Oregon to visit Rachel's parents and share and show him around. The trip coincided with our good friends Sophie and Peter's wedding. This would be the first wedding Solly attended and he was quite a hit.

We found ourselves at a beautifully cleared meadow in rural Oregon, near Eugene, at Sophie's fathers home. This was the Rehearsal Dinner. Lights had been strung in the trees and the soon to be served dinner was being grilled somewhere nearby where we could smell the meats roasting.

Evidently folks were waiting for Solly because as we arrived, a swarm of Deborah's (Solly's grandma) friends gathered around Rachel with their arms cocked against their bodies ready to strike should Solly be offered to them. I might even go so far as to say they looked like a bunch of T-Rexes gathered around their prey ready to snatch the choicest morsel and run off.

Jan Lichtenstein, the mother of the bride, was the lucky recipient of the first visit with Solly. What I'm learning is that because Solly does not cry, he will not be handed back to us at this sort of event. He will either be hoarded by the individual or his grandmother Deborah will play her indisputable "grandmother card" and scoop him up.

That being said, the bride herself was quite gracious to let Solly share the spotlight. And the spotlight shone most brightly when her and Solly were together. It was actually a beautiful circular connection to see Rachel and Solly and Sophie all together. For those who don't know, Rachel and Sophie's mothers (Deborah and Jan) were best friends when they gave birth to Sophie and Rachel only 6 weeks apart. Sophie and Rachel grew up best friends through childhood as Deborah and Jan continued their friendship. Now with Solly in the picture, everyone undoubtedly is looking at Sophie and wondering not if, but when the story will continue (no pressure Sophie!).

If Solly has an effect on young couples, it is to say "I want one of those - that doesn't look so hard". We will let time tell us if those statements turn into results!